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Public Spaces, Private Lives

Beyond the Culture of Cynicism

Henry A. Giroux

Public Spaces, Private Lives argues for a new language of engaged hope, political action, and democratic public participation. In an era when Americans regard politicians and government cynically, this book challenges the assumption that politics is dead—and shows why and how citizens must claim a revitalized role in American public and democratic institutions.
Prominent cultural critic Henry Giroux describes an America today in which many citizens cannot envision an alternative to market-driven values. He explains why this is so and why so many people offer so little resistance to a concept of citizenship that does not extend beyond the lure of consumerism. As democracy is increasingly corrupted by the values of the market and an unbridled individualism, compassion and critical judgment give way to harsh, retrograde public policies like zero tolerance in schools and courts—and to media spectacles like Survivor that link masculinity to violence. These tendencies—in our media and in our society— spawn an increasingly urgent challenge of reawakening America's democratic values and revitalizing politics as a crucial form of public engagement.

Giroux finds the key to effective social change in the realms of civic education, public policy, and cultural politics. He stresses forms of schooling and public pedadogy in which critical thinking and learning take a central position in the classroom and in the public sphere. We need new and reinvigorated models of educated hope in order to re-engage active public citizenship. Giroux makes a provocative and compelling case for profound but achievable changes that will move us beyond the current impasse of democracy.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 208Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7425-1553-6 • Hardback • August 2001 • $26.95 • (£17.95)
Henry A. Giroux is Waterbury Chair of Education at Pennsylvania State University and author of numerous books and articles on society, education, and political culture, including most recently, The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence and Channel Surfing.
Chapter 1 Introduction: Collective Hopes in the Age of Privatized Visions
Chapter 2 Cultural Studies and the Culture of Politics: Beyond Polemics and Cynicism
Chapter 3 Youth, Domestic Militarization, and the Politics of Zero Tolerance
Chapter 4 Private Satisfactions and Public Disorders:Fight Club, Patriarchy, and the Politics of Masculine Violence
Chapter 5 Pedagogy of the Depressed
Chapter 6 "Something's Missing": From Utopianism to a Politics of Educated Hope
Chapter 7 Afterword: Reading Giroux: Cultural Studies, Critical Pedagogy, and Radical Democracy
Chapter 9 Notes
Chapter 10 Index
Chapter 11 Afterword: Reading Giroux: Cultural Studies, Critical Pedagogy, and Democracy
A brilliantly developed study of the loss of public opportunities and civic solidarity, and their replacement by a market-driven ethos that commodifies our longings and exalts the selfish and encapsulated will of isolated individuals. Public Spaces, Private Lives is Henry Giroux's most fascinating work to date—and, the most profoundly energizing. Giroux repeatedly has brought his formidable intellect to bear on issues that immediately matter to ordinary men and women. He enters the moral battles of our era in the cultural locations—film, the press, TV—in which they actually are waged. This is why Giroux has come to be a public force of critical importance—an importance certain to be magnified by this deliciously irreverent and iconoclastic work. A brave book by a brilliant man with a big heart and a shrewd eye for the cruelties and contradictions of our paradoxical society.
Jonathan Kozol, Acclaimed American Author Of Death At An Early Age

Just when I thought visionaries were dead, along comes Henry Giroux. With his usual eloquence and verve, Giroux makes a powerful case for recovering the public sphere, building a new civic culture, and creating a new political vocabulary that draws from the well of imagination and hope. Cynics beware! This book might bring you back to the hard work of dreaming.
Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo? Mama?s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America

Must reading for anyone concerned about finding solutions to the crises that face American society.
Arif Dirlik, author of Marxism in the Chinese Revolution

Henry Giroux's Public Spaces, Private Lives is a passionate and informed call-to-arms for scholars, students, and citizens alike. Drawing from the most progressive and appealing aspects of the cultural studies tradition, and willing to take on sacred cows left and right, Giroux makes a penetrating critique of the decay of contemporary society, and points toward a revitalization of public life. This clearly written and lucidly argued book deserves the widest possible readership.
Robert W. McChesney, author, Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle

At a time when cynicism and despair have gripped many intellectuals, Henry Giroux's Public Spaces, Private Lives is a virtual manifesto of a new politics of hope. The essays are always sharp, but more to the point, anyone can learn from them. As always Giroux's scope of knowledge and breadth of concern is dazzling. But this book has special relevance for a time when we need voices like Giroux's to light the way.
Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center, author of From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future

In an era when the American public regards politics cynically, this book shows how and why citizens must reclaim an influence on the public institutions and policies that shape their lives. It argues for a new language of hope and democratic public participation.
Hispanic Outlook

Public Spaces, Private Lives appears at a time of seismic reversals that are occurring in the public sphere. While written before September 11th, the book has far more significance since that event. This book marks a new phase in Giroux's intellectual trajectory.
Teachers College Record

Anyone with an interest in education and democratic society should read this book. It will motivate discussion, critical thinking, and questions. . . .
NACADA Journal